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After the Glass Ceiling, a Glass Cliff

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After the Glass Ceiling, a Glass Cliff

Freakonomics Radio


5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Why do women CEOs often get to lead companies that are already failing?

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Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Why do so many new women CEOs find themselves at the edge of a precipice rather than in a cushy executive chair? In this episode of the popular Freakonomics Radio podcast, host Stephen J. Dubner (one of the co-authors of the Freakonomics books) interviews researchers, prominent CEOs and outspoken former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz to explain the phenomenon and explore possible reasons.


The notion of a glass ceiling – an invisible, informal upper limit that keeps women from reaching the top of organizations – has been around since the 1980s. Two decades later, two professors at Exeter University in England began to describe a related phenomenon – the “glass cliff,” whereby companies are more likely to appoint women to their boards in times of crisis. Subsequent research in the United States confirmed that the same is true for the appointment of women CEOs. The proportion of female leaders also tends to be higher in poorly performing school districts, and female political candidates...

About the Podcast

Freakonomics Radio is a podcast about socioeconomic issues for a general audience. Host Stephen J. Dubner is co-author of the Freakonomics books. This episode's guest Carol Bartz is the former CEO of Autodesk and Yahoo.

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